The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has announced that Mark Francois is the new fire minister.
Mr Francois, who is MP for Rayleigh and Wickford, was appointed minister of state at DCLG earlier this month by David Cameron as part of a cabinet reshuffle following the Conservative Party gaining on overall majority in the general election. It has now been confirmed that as part of his ministerial duties he will be responsible for the fire and rescue service.
He was previously minister for the armed forces and the move means he is swapping roles with Penny Mordaunt who becomes the first-ever female to be appointed minister for the armed forces. Ms Mordaunt was only named fire minister in July last year, which was her first ministerial position.
Following the announcement, the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) released a statement saying it hoped Mr Francois would work with it to bring an end to the ongoing dispute over firefighters pensions. FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said: ‘Firefighters everywhere will hope that with a new fire minister in place we can start a genuine and open dialogue about how we protect our essential service for the future.
‘Over the past five years we have seen the worst cuts to our service ever with 7,000 firefighter jobs lost, the closure of over forty fire stations and dozens of fire engines axed. This simply cannot continue.
‘We will also be looking to discuss the pension arrangements for firefighters. We were left at the end of the last Parliament with a confusing situation regarding firefighters who suffer a decline in fitness with the government saying one thing and employers saying something different. Firefighters are entitled to know the truth.
‘We hope Mr Francois will want a genuine dialogue with the elected representatives of the firefighting profession and we are always available to meet.’
Fire Protection Association managing director Jon O’Neill congratulated Mr Francois on his appointment, he said: ‘I wish the new fire minister all the best in his new position. I have already written to him to say that the FPA is keen to continue to work with the government and we look forward to welcoming him at the Fire Sector Summit, which takes place on 4 November at the Fire Service College and is the key agenda setting event for our industry.’